A small pond in London Wetlands Center.

© BBA Photography/Shutterstock

London Wetland Centre

Top choice in Richmond, Kew & Hampton Court

One of Europe’s largest inland wetland projects, this 42-hectare centre run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust was transformed from four Victorian reservoirs in 2000 and attracts some 140 species of bird, as well as frogs, butterflies, dragonflies and lizards, plus a thriving colony of watervoles. The glass-fronted observatory affords panoramic views over the lakes, while meandering paths and boardwalks lead visitors through the watery habitats of black swans, Bewick's swans, geese, red-crested pochards, sand martins, coots, bitterns, herons and kingfishers.

Don’t miss the Peacock Tower, a three-storey hide – and magnet for serious birders – on the main lake’s eastern edge; other hides are sprinkled around the reserve, including the Headley Discovery Hide in the west. The wetland is also well populated with eight different species of bats that feed on the abundant moths. A short walk north of the entrance, the wetland's family of sleek-coated otters are fed at 11am and 2pm Monday to Friday.

Free daily tours, which are led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff members, are highly recommended. They depart at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Binoculars can be hired from the shop. Routes and hides are shut 30 minutes before closing time. Book online for the best ticket prices.

Bus 485 runs from Hammersmith bus station direct to the centre, running twice an hour, but does not run on Sundays or bank holidays. Buses 33, 72 or 209 also run from Hammersmith bus station to stops near the London Wetland Centre.

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